Jera’s Jamboree review: I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan

I’ll Be There by Holly Goldberg Sloan

Paperback: 224 pages

Publisher: Piccadilly (5 April 2012)

Language English

ISBN-10: 1848122675

ISBN-13: 978-1848122673

Raised by an unstable father who keeps the family constantly on the move, Sam Border hasn’t been in a classroom since the second grade. He’s always been the rock for his younger brother Riddle, who stopped speaking long ago and instead makes sense of the world through his strange and intricate drawings. It’s said that the two boys speak with one voice-and that voice is Sam’s.

Then, Sam meets Emily Bell, and everything changes. The two share an immediate and intense attraction, and soon Sam and Riddle find themselves welcomed into the Bell’s home. Faced with normalcy for the first time, they know it’s too good to last.

Told from multiple perspectives, Holly Goldberg Sloan’s debut novel offers readers fresh voices and a gripping story, with vivid glimpses into the lives of many unique characters. Beautifully written and emotionally profound, I’ll Be There is a story about connections both big and small, and deftly explores the many ways that our lives are woven together.

The story begins with Sam … we find out all the things we need to know to understand him and his passion/outlet for music and therefore the reasons why church plays an important part in his existence.  Whilst Emily is sharing her feelings about singing in church the reader gets to know Emily and her middle class family.  The importance of the title is introduced straight away – it is the song Emily sings in church whilst transfixed on Sam.  Unbeknown to Emily it is a song that Sam’s mother used to sing to him.  The song is important at key points …

Sam comes into Emily’s life and changes her forever.  She looks at everything around her with a different perspective and matures in the blink of an eye.  Sam is so innocent and wears no mask because he hasn’t had to interact with society on a daily basis.  Ironically, the rules we have been taught are to distrust someone like Sam when all along, the upper class Bobby Ellis is the one who is ‘acting’ in public while hiding a totally different persona underneath.  Take note! Perhaps it was unkind of me but the disasters that befell Bobby on the day of the prom had me laughing … that’s what you call karma  🙂

The romance between Emily and Sam is magical.  They have a powerful connection.  At one point, Sam is waiting for Emily to finish soccer practice and when she realises he is there, they kiss through the chainlink fence.  A powerful symbol at that point in their journey.

I really liked the alternating narratives (written in the third person).  I must admit that at first, while the foundation is created, the story was ‘ok’ for me.  I could pick the book up and put it down.  From the time the crisis happens though, I was hooked.  The suspense grabbed me.  I couldn’t put it down.  Spending time with Sam and his brother Riddle when they’re together and then when they’re apart while also spending time with Emily and Bobby Ellis … and Sam’s father Clarence.  You just have to turn those pages to see what each of the characters are up to and I was intrigued to find out how, or if, it would all weave back together again.

The background that Sam and Riddle have gives them the skills they need to survive after the crisis point.  The exciting thing about the resolution is that you think it’s going to happen … but it doesn’t.  There’s more to come.  I loved the whole scene with Riddle and the orange tent, from his comparison to The Three Bears and the way he felt to the laughter I couldn’t stop when he was found.

All the characters are brilliant but my favourite just has to be Riddle.  So very interesting.  Suffering from asthma, allergies and on the autistic spectrum, it’s clear why he finds a place in Debbie Bell’s heart.  I was so caught up in the story that at one point, when Riddle screamed I did too!

I identified with Emily having thought deeply about things for as long as I can remember and seeing patterns within patterns.  Should I admit to feeling like Emily about pictures?  Probably not … I thought I was the only one who felt like that though obviously not as the author has created it as part of Emily’s personality!

I can’t end my review without mentioning synchronicity.  I love the way that characters and their reasons for being a part of the story are woven in, as well as the ‘bigger’ picture.

I’ll Be There is a debut novel that’s multi-layered. Targeted at the Young Adult audience, many adults will also identify with the emotions and survival of finding a place to belong.  A word of warning, have your tissues ready at the ending!

‘Everyone whose path you cross in life has the power to change you’ 

Buy it and spread the word

I would like to thank Piccadilly Press for offering I’ll Be There on Twitter for review in exchange for an honest opinion.

You can find out more about debut author Holly Goldberg Sloan on her website.  You can follow her on Twitter and Holly has an author Facebook page.

I’ll Be There is available from:

Amazon Kindle £3.71

Amazon Paperback £3.91

The Book Depository Paperback £5.05

And all major bookstores

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